Harteman Wildfowl, presented by Jan Harteman
Most captive ducks need nestboxes to lay their eggs in. With this page, I have made some rough sketches of a few of the boxes I use.
The box to the right can also be used for Mandarins, Mergansers and Ringed Teal. The box should be 10" wide by 24" high. A 4" diameter oval (an inch larger for the whistling ducks, 1/2 inch smaller for Hoodies & Smew) should be cut about 6" from the top in the center of the box. You should either the back or front side longer than one, this way rain can run off the roof should overlap the entrance hole. I have hinges on the back of the roof so I can inspect the nest. Place a piece of screen or hardware cloth on the inside of the box, just below the entrance hole. The ducklings will need this to get traction to get out of the box. I use pine shavings as nesting material. You can mount this however high as you choose, but do provide a ladder if the hen has been pinioned or wing clipped.
Below is a photograph of one of several artifical nest boxes in place at Squaw Creek NWR in Northwest Missouri. If you are thinking about adding a box to attract wild wood ducks to your property and cannot place the box over open water, you may need to place a metal sleeve or cone around the pole. This is done to prevent predators from raiding boxes.
While many species of teal prefer to nest on the ground in thick cover, some often use boxes. The Ringed Teal need these boxes to nest. The boxes measure 14" high, 9" wide and a length of 10". A 3" dide hole needs to placed in the center on the front of the box. For Ringed Teal, place the box about 2 to 3 feet high on a post. Like the above nestbox, place a ladder to the box if the bird's wings are clipped. Although the entrance hole is smaller, I have seen Mandarins use these boxes.
The same box can be used for ground nesting teal such as Green-winged Teal and other species. Place the box on the ground and cover with plants. I cut cedar and willow branches and place them on and around the box to provide the ducks with an extra sense of secruity. You can add hinges to the roof if you so desire. I also use pine shavings as nesting material.
This type of box is preferred by Bahama Pintail and may also be used by other small ground nesting ducks. It's very simple to build, you can either add a front with a 3" entance hole, or leave it open (I provide both and let the ducks decide which one they want to use). The boxs are 14" long, 12" high and 12" wide. Place under cover like the above box. I also put straw inside for the hen to construct a nest.
Since most species of shelducks nest in burrows in the wild, they need a box that is half buried in the ground. A simple box 14" square with a piece of pvc pipe 6" in diameter and 12" long coming out of the front works great. You can bury it however you may choose. I have seen some that are just place on the ground and then surrounded by soil and others that are buried with just the pipe and hinged lid visible.
One mistake I made just this spring, was not thinking about the box flooding! I lost an entire clutch of Ruddy Shelduck eggs after a storm one night. Since the box was below ground level, it quickly filled up with water. I have since made adjustments (added a small gravel berm) to stop the flow of water. Just wanted to pass my misfortunes along so that you won't have a year with no young shelducks!
Mallard type species will sometimes use square boxes that are 12" wide, 12" high and 14" long. They can either be open on one end or have a 5" diameter entrance hole.
Pochards such as Rosybills will sometimes use boxes that are 12" square placed under thick cover.
It is always wise to place at least two or three nest boxes per pair in the aviary. This gives the pair the opportunity to choose which box is "right" for them. Remove the boxes in the fall and make any repairs needed and give them a good cleaning. You can paint the boxes whatever color you like, we use dark brown which blends in good with the surroundings.
Above: suitable nestboxes for white-winged wood ducks (at Sylvan Heights Bird Park, NC, USA)